The Thin Blue Line Isn’t Supposed To Be Electricity

I’m probably a day or so behind on this story, but I decided to chime in anyway.  One of the most distasteful elements of working in law enforcement was the siege mentality that forces cops (and nurses, sometimes, particularly those who work in big-city ERs) to adopt an us vs. them perspective and apply it to everyone they encounter.  There have been good movies about it.   Normal, healthy camaraderie soon descends into paranoia and a gang- like set of ethics.

Recently, I had a shouting match with an ex-cop over the use of force.  It starts in the academy, this notion that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO ON YOUR SHIFT IS TO GO HOME.  Well, of course it is.  When Ginger or Rachel or Andy finish work, getting home alive is just as much a priority to them, I’m sure.  They agreed to brave the freeways to get to work.  They agreed to navigate the dangerous gauntlet of leering Hispanic men in order to get their ham biscuit. (In fact, Ginger, I hear, navigated it multiple times) My point is that whatever risks they encounter as part of their day are just that, part of their day, and they make that trade when they accepted employment.  Of course I’m not intending to diminish the real risks police officers take as part of their jobs, but it is important to note that they are not conscripts, they joined willingly and with the full realization that this job carried the possibility of physical harm.

Since that is the case, I made the point to this guy that it is a policeman’s duty to take a bullet for an innocent person.  He literally became enraged when I suggested that I’d rather see a cop killed over an innocent bystander because that is part of job:  stand between me and danger.  It’s not heroic, its expected.  When a civilian risks his life to aid someone, thats heroism.  When a cop risks his life to aid a civilian, he is simply fulfilling his contract.

No one wants to see a policeman hurt or killed, of course, and I don’t mean to suggest their lives mean less.  But this notion that it is possible to do police work without possible injury is ridiculous.  There is training, there are procedures, and yes, there are tools to assist police in carrying out their duties.  One of these is the taser.  I hated it the minute I saw it.

Watch that video again.  four cops, one guy.  He was breathing heavily, and on the tail end of a tantrum, possibly due to illness, but the point is that he was not advancing, he was retreating. 

Now, he’s dead.   He’s not the first, he won’t be the last.

In my opinion, weapons should be defensive tools, always.  Once the suspect advances towards you, well, unleash the hounds.  But just because a disoriented man who cannot communicate with you is trying your patience, or not obeying your commands fast enough, you are not entitled to incapacitate him or her.  If you must subdue, wait till you have sufficient numbers, then do so physically.  This reliance on sophisticated weaponry is embarrassing, and dangerous.

We seem to have morphed into a society that too quickly dismisses the rights of those who do not immediately submit to authority, or that have broken the law before.  But thats another post, for another day…



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6 responses to “The Thin Blue Line Isn’t Supposed To Be Electricity

  1. That would be a Thin Blue Arc.

  2. There was a big to-do around Atlanta because a cops tasered a 14 year old girl on Halloween. The incident started because the 14 year old was cursing in front of children. The cop told her to stop, she told him to fuck off. You see where this is going.

    I’d say tasers have saved a lot of lives, by not making the cop use his sidearm, but I’d also agree that there are plenty of examples where the cops went to that option pretty quickly simply because it’s “non-lethal”, at least according to the manual.

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain the difference between the police and say, the Corleone family. Both require you to pay them protection, and in return they keep the peace, so long as you do what they say.

  3. One other thing, these stories often end with a toxicology report, where they say: The guy was jacked up on cocaine.

    Well maybe that’s not the best time to throw his heart a curve ball.

  4. They agreed to navigate the dangerous gauntlet of leering Hispanic men in order to get their ham biscuit. (In fact, Ginger, I hear, navigated it multiple times)

    Heeeyyy…I am a big fan of getting porked. It has been my experience that it always seems hotter if it’s from Hispanic men, so can you blame me if Jack in the Box is my favorite destination for a good ham biscuit?

  5. democommie

    I was listening to “As It Happens” on the CBC last evening and the tasering incident WAS the program. Vancouver Airport management and the CBS (Canadian Border Service) both had representatives questioned by the people who do the show.

    The CBS representative said (in response to a question about whether an interpreter might be provided for a non-english speaker, as the decedent was) said that if there was time and they could determine what language the vicperp spoke. He said that in any case, this person was presumed by some to be speaking Russian and it turned out that he was actually Polish so an interpreter would have been useless. Most Poles over the age of 20 years understand a bit of Russian. In any case, the interviewee was then asked how he thought this might make non-english speakers planning on coming to the Vancouver Olympics feel. That one tripped him up a bit.

    Cops are human, but sometimes they want to be viewed as demi-gods.

  6. kmum

    First time commenter here. What the linked story leaves out is this guy was in the airport for 10 hours before they tasered him. I am appalled that in 10 hours they couldn’t have had an interpreter come to the area and see if that person was able to determine what language he was speaking? The more I hear about this story, the worse I feel for the man and his mother. She came to Canada years ago, worked hard to save money to bring her only son to be with her and get out of the poverty he lived with in Poland and he is killed before he gets to leave the airport. That is just messed up.

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